The Search for the Perfect Basic Land

Whereas typical card-inclusion decisions are limited to (beyond form and function of course) which printing to use, which promo art to include, or whether or not you wish to run the foil, foreign language, or signed copy, basic lands leave players with a lot of optionss to express their love for the game or length of time that they’ve been playing.

Recently, as I sleeved up a Modern deck running basic islands, plains, and mountains, I was faced with a very important decision…

Do I run Saga or Revised basics?

Option 1


Option 2


This was a tricky one.  Option 1, the Urza’s Saga basics, was not only the set that was just released as I began playing the game back in 1998, but also provided some of the most exceptional art I had ever seen on a card, specifically, Donato Giancola’s Island.  The Revised lands on the other hand, represent a humble beginning to a nearly twenty-five year-old game that has had a life-changing impact on a lot of players (many of them are the same images used on the Alpha and Beta basics).  Ultimately, I settled on the Saga lands.

As a quick aside, the four different paintings used for the basic plains art in Urza’s Saga can be combined to form a panoramic image of the floating region…


Art by Rob Alexander

After this recent moment of indecision, I began to think, there have got to be other players out there who are seeking the perfect basic land fit for their favorite constructed decks.

For that reason, I’ve decided to compile this list of the most unique, obscure, stunning, or unobtainable basic land cards.  Thanks to a bit of crowd-sourcing via Reddit (thanks /r/ModernMagic community!), I’ve discovered quite a few fantastic options for your consideration.

Let’s start with the most obvious…

Unstable Full-Art Basics (2017)


This set of lands has no doubt peaked the interest of collectors and players wishing to replace their deck’s otherwise ordinary basic land suite with some unique and powerful art.  These ones, in particular, mark a departure from any other land printed in the game with art stretching horizontally across the entire card.  Enlarged art as a concept is not a new design, however.  We’ve seen it in Zendikar and Amonkhet before and some similarly unique designs in Unglued and Unhinged.

Unglued Full-Art Basics (1998)


Unhinged Full-Art Basics (2004)



Players have argued that the frequency of full-art options in standard-legal sets has diminished how special they feel.  With some of these lands appearing in every single pack, their availability is quite high and playing them in your deck can feel rather…commonplace.  For those who find this to be true, perhaps you’d be interested in something a little more unorthodox?  I hope you’re also interested in emptying out your pocket book.

Asia-Pacific Promo Basics (1998)


The Asia-Pacific Lands, better known as the APAC promos, were given out exclusively to people living in countries in the Asian-Pacific region.  Each art, which is specific only to these promos, is meant to depict a landmark or location from one of these countries.  For example, The Great Wall of China is clearly visible in the third plains pictured above and the third mountain is meant to represent Mt. Fuji in Japan.  These lands were distributed in sets of five in three different collections referred to as “clear”, “red”, or “blue” based on the color of their packaging.

Guru Lands (1999)


Considerably more expensive than the APAC Lands, Guru basics were available only for a limited time as part of an incentive program designed to encourage players to teach their friends how to play magic.  Each one features unique art depicting phases of the sun or moon painted by MTG-favorite Terese Nielson.

Euro Lands (1998)


Similar to the APAC lands, Euro Lands were released as exclusive ‘buy-a-box’ promos in European countries only.  These came packaged in land boosters when players purchased Invasion, Nemesis, or Prophecy booster boxes and, once again, were meant to depict images from the countries in which they were distributed.

Standard Showdown Lands (2017)


This one is a bit more recent so you’re likely well-aware of them already but the Standard Showdown lands are just too awesome to leave off this list.  Rebecca Guay always crushes it.  Am I right?

Judge Promo Full-Arts (2014)


In August of 2014, WoTC surprised their active judges with a set of these Terese Nielson full-art foil lands and then proceeded to tease everyone else in a post on the mothership in order to nudge them towards becoming a judge themselves.

Magic Premier Shop Promos (2006-2012)


Magic Premier Shop promos were distributed to select retailers in Japan starting in 2006.  The first run of these, pictured above is the only one to feature the large “MPS” stamped in the text box where you’d expect to see a mana symbol.  Other interesting art can be found in the 2008 cycle…


Set Basics

To wrap things up, I’ll leave you with a smattering of some of the most appealing or unusual artworks found on basic lands included in MTG booster packs.  Chose wisely!